A primer on West Virginia’s upcoming primaries

Welcome to the Monday, May 9, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. A primer on West Virginia’s upcoming primaries
  2. Online sports betting initiative campaign in California submits 1.6 million signatures
  3. State legislative incumbents in South Dakota are facing more contested primaries than at any point since 2010

A primer on West Virginia’s upcoming primaries

Two states—Nebraska and West Virginia—are holding statewide primaries tomorrow, May 10. Last Friday, we looked at how primaries work in Nebraska. Today, let’s turn our focus to West Virginia.  

At the federal level, West Virginia voters will decide Democratic and Republican primaries for the state’s two U.S. House districts. At the state level, voters will decide Democratic and Republican primaries for the state’s 100 House of Delegates districts and 17 Senate districts.

Federal races

Incumbent Carol Miller, Scott Fuller, James Houser, Zane Lawhorn, and Kent Stevens are running in the 1st Congressional District Republican primary. Only one candidate, Eugene Watson, filed to run in the Democratic primary

The Republican primary for the 2nd Congressional District is unusual in that it features two incumbent representatives—U.S. Reps. David McKinley, who currently represents District 1, and Alexander Mooney, who currently represents District 2. McKinley and Mooney were placed in the same district because of redistricting. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Mooney, while Gov. Jim Justice (R) endorsed McKinley. McKinley has criticized Mooney for previously holding office in Maryland and running unsuccessful campaigns in both Maryland and New Hampshire. Mooney calls McKinley a Republican in name only, citing McKinley’s votes for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and the creation of a bipartisan January 6 commission. Overall, five U.S. House races have two incumbents running for the same congressional district this year. In 2012, following the 2010 census, 13 U.S. House races had multiple incumbents. 

Angela Dwyer and Barry Wendell are running in the Democratic primary for the state’s 2nd Congressional District. 

State races

All 100 seats in the West Virginia House of Delegates are up for election this year. Republicans represent 78 districts and Democrats represent 22. 

Elections for the House of Delegates look a little different this year. Previously, the House used multi-member districts, with 100 members divided between 67 districts. During the redistricting process, the Legislature created 100 single-member districts. As a result, 84 of the 85 incumbents who filed for re-election did so in districts different from those they represented before 2022.

Seventeen of the state Senate’s 34 districts are up for election this year. Currently, Republicans represent 23 districts, while Democrats represent 22. 

Twenty-three of the 117 districts holding elections are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. Four are in the Senate and 19 are in the House. Among those in the House, nine are in districts that did not exist before 2022, three are in districts that were previously multi-member, and seven are in districts that remained single-member.

West Virginia has had a Republican trifecta since 2017, when Gov. Jim Justice (R) switched his registration from Democrat to Republican. West Virginia had a Democratic trifecta from 2001 to 2014. 

In West Virginia, the primary candidate with the most votes wins—even if that candidate receives less than 50% of the total vote. West Virginia is one of 40 states without primary election runoffs. The state does not cancel uncontested primaries, and write-in candidates have to file unless they are running for a nonpartisan office

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Online sports betting initiative campaign in California submits 1.6 million signatures 

On May 2, ​​Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support, the group behind a ballot initiative that would legalize online sports betting, announced it had submitted 1.6 million signatures for verification. Sports betting in any form is currently illegal in California.

The initiative was filed on Aug. 31, 2021, and signatures were due on May 3, 2022. Since the measure is a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute, the required number of signatures is 997,139, or 8% of the votes cast in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The deadline for signature verification is June 30.

The initiative states it doesn’t conflict with a measure already on the ballot that would legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks. That measure has already qualified for the November ballot. 

However, it would conflict with another online sports betting initiative sponsored by the Rincon Band of Luiseño Indians and San Manuel Band of Mission Indians. If both online sports betting initiatives qualify for the ballot, the initiative that earns the highest majority approval rate would take effect.

Californians for Solutions to Homelessness and Mental Health Support reported more than $100 million in contributions according to its latest campaign finance filings. 

The initiative has received support from the mayors of Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, and Sacramento.

There are two PACs registered in opposition to the initiative—Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming and Coalition for Safe, Responsible Gaming. The committees reported a combined total of $65.6 million in contributions. 

Apart from opposition from the state’s Indian tribes, the initiative is opposed by smaller sports betting companies that do not meet the requirements to operate within the state under the proposed measure.

Sports betting is legal and operational in 30 states and D.C. Since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Murphy v. NCAA that overturned the federal ban on sports betting, five states have legalized sports betting through a ballot measure with an average approval rate of 58.99%.

Click below to read more about the initiative, and click here to read about other potential and certified gambling ballot measures this year. 

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State legislative incumbents in South Dakota are facing more contested primaries than at any point since 2010

Thirty-five of the 71 South Dakota state legislators running for re-election this year—all Republicans—face contested primaries. That equals 49% of incumbents, the highest rate since 2010.

A contested primary is one where more candidates are running than there are seats up for election. In South Dakota’s Senate, every district has one member, so a primary is contested if two candidates from the same party file to run. Most House districts have two seats, meaning at least three candidates from the same party must file to create a contested primary.

The total number of primaries—including those without incumbents—also reached its highest level since 2010. With 72 districts, there are 144 possible primaries every election cycle. This year, 41 (29%) are contested: two Democratic primaries and 39 Republican. For Democrats, this is the same number as in 2020. For Republicans, this represents a 44% increase.

  1. Sen. Gary Cammack (R) is running in House District 29, creating a primary including incumbent Rep. Kirk Chaffee (R) and newcomer Kathy Rice (R). Two candidates will advance to the general election.
  2. Rep. Mark Willadsen (R) is running in Senate District 9 against newcomer Brent Hoffman (R).
  3. Rep. Arch Beal (R) is running in Senate District 12 in an uncontested primary.
  4. Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D) is running in Senate District 26 in an uncontested primary.

Additionally, Rep. Steve Haugaard (R) is running for governor against incumbent Gov. Kristi Noem (R). No incumbent governor has lost a primary when running for a second term in South Dakota.

Overall, 216 major party candidates filed to run this year: 53 Democrats and 163 Republicans. That’s 2.1 candidates per seat, an increase from the 1.9 candidates per seat in 2020.

South Dakota has been a Republican trifecta since the party won control of the Senate in 1994. Republicans currently hold a 32-3 majority in the Senate and a 62-8 majority in the House, the party’s largest majority since the early 1950s.

South Dakota’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for June 7.

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